With their previous Raymond Scott releases Soothing Sounds for Baby and Manhattan Research, Inc., Basta exposed a wider audience to his brilliant electronic music -- and prepared them to take a deep dive into it with Three Willow Park: Electronic Music from Inner Space. Named for his headquarters during the '60s and early '70s, the set feels like an invitation into the secret workings of his lab. Scott's approach is unmistakable here, even if it sounds rawer than before. The tones he created are as evocative as ever: "Ripples Effects #1" sounds like it was arranged for water, wood, and outer space. His wonderful wit is everywhere, whether on "The Sound of Money Being Wasted"'s self-deprecating title and tangle of sound, or "In a 21st Century Drawing Room," a fine example of how Scott's grounding in more traditional music (in this case, Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 15 in C major) helped him experiment with it. There is a smattering of the spacy pop that appeared on Basta's previous Scott releases -- including "Dorothea," which sounds like Soothing Sounds for Baby all grown up; the "Telstar"-esque "Cindy Alternate (Pop Rock)"; and the electronic exotica of "Carribea" -- but Three Willow Park focuses on Scott's boundary-pushing. The "Powerhouse"-riffing "Domino Sugar Demo" and the bustling "IBM Probe #4" serve as reminders that some of his most forward-thinking music was created for well-established corporations. There are also many flavors of the future: "Tone Stepper"'s frantic bloops evoke a tomorrow firmly rooted in the mid-20th century, but "Rhythm Sample #2" and "Cyclic Bit #3" presage the loops that became staples of electronic music. Scott's penchant for experimentation on Three Willow Park is matched only by the thoroughness of his documentation on tracks like "Auto-Lite Effects," where he carefully notes each change as sounds swoop and bubble around him. Tracking Scott's creative process is also fascinating; "Portofino" grows from a sketch of a sentimental melody to a prime piece of space age pop, while "A Rhythm Ballet"'s avant-garde sweeps and flutters feel downright poised compared to the wilder sonic gestures of "Ballet-Like Bits." Both of these pieces showcase one of Scott's most dazzling inventions, the Electronium. A music-making machine that could also perform and compose automatically, it had a steep learning curve but nevertheless piqued the interest of Motown's Berry Gordy, who invited Scott to Los Angeles to build an Electronium for the label and become its head of electronic research and development. Though Motown never released any music featuring the Electronium, its potential seems all the more tantalizing on "1st Class Electronium, Pt. 1," one of several tracks where Scott shows how to guide (not just play) the machine, and "Three Motown Electronium Adaptations," where label engineer Hoby Cook tries to adapt its distinctive style for Motown's needs, with results that fall into pop's uncanny valley. Ultimately, the Electronium, like Scott, was one of a kind, and Three Willow Park is a treasure trove for fans wanting to know more about one of the 20th century's most inventive musical minds.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2